Patrick T. Fitzgerald; 1944-2013: WBGU-TV manager had national standing

Patrick Fitzgerald.
Patrick Fitzgerald.

BOWLING GREEN — Patrick T. Fitzgerald, the second general manager of WBGU-TV at Bowling Green State University, who devoted his career to the promise of public television, died Wednesday in University of Toledo Medical Center, the former Medical College of Ohio Hospital. He was 69.

He had a stroke at his Bowling Green home on Sunday, daughter Kerri said.

Mr. Fitzgerald — friends and colleagues called him “Fitz” — retired in 2010 from WBGU-TV as general manager. In 1989, he succeeded Duane Tucker, the station’s general manager when it went on the air in 1964.

“They were extremely close,” Mr. Fitzgerald’s daughter said. “He admired Duane very much and tried to follow in Duane’s footprints.”

One of his last big projects in 2009 was station’s conversion to digital transmission.

“He helped the station through a lot of transitions, new technologies, new developments, but at the same time he was a really rooted, balanced leader,” his daughter said.

He gave station staff the chance to grow and excel, said Pat Koehler, a friend and retired WBGU-TV development director.

“Patrick was very optimistic and instilled the values of leadership in all of us as his staff,” Ms. Koehler said.

A Cleveland native, Mr. Fitzgerald was hired in 1973 as director of the station’s learning services. He oversaw instructional TV services to BGSU and a university-operated cable channel in the Bowling Green area.

Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards recalled attending a national PBS meeting with Mr. Fitzgerald. “What immediately came to the fore was his standing nationally and how many people around the country respected his voice,” Mr. Edwards said.

He was a longtime member of the Wood County Planning Commission and was vice president of the BGSU Retirees Association. He was media coordinator for the Marathon LPGA Classic and, as a volunteer, helped the hungry and homeless.

He was born July 30, 1944, to Eleanor and Clarence Fitzgerald, the youngest of six children. Two brothers became Roman Catholic priests and a sister became a nun, and he felt a calling to a vocation as well.

He entered a seminary at age 13 and attended St. Joseph College and St. Charles Major Seminary. He received a BA in philosophy and a master’s in theology from the University of Dayton. He was ordained a priest in the Missionaries of the Precious Blood community. He left the priesthood later, but not the church. “It was a core element of him,” his daughter said.

Fascinated by television’s potential reach, he pursued graduate studies in the medium. He received a master’s degree from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York and taught television production at New York’s Hunter College.

He married the former Nancy Doenges on April 7, 1972. She died Nov. 29, 2012.

Surviving are his daughters Dr. Kerri Fitzgerald and Kathleen Sayler, sisters Maureen King and Sharon Hickey, brother Robert Fitzgerald, and four grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 1-5 p.m. Sunday in the Dunn Funeral Home, Bowling Green. Services will begin at 10:30 a.m. Monday in Blessed John XXIII Church, Perrysburg, where he was a member and lay minister.

Memorials are suggested to Wood Area Ministries or his church.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: or 419-724-6182.